“In contemplation God teaches the soul very quietly and secretly, without its knowing how, without the sound of words” (Chapter 39, The Spiritual Canticle).
In the spirit of St. John of the Cross, this blog reflects on the contemplative experience and the poetic experience, sometimes separately and distinctly, sometimes in common, as mutually enlightening.
I will also post to this blog, from time to time, my own poetry, with a short interpretive note attached.
~ Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
The Hours ~ 7 Poems – Part 5 of 7
Tue, Oct 30 2018
Initially, I wrote 4 poems for the collection called The Hours. Since the publication of those four poems, I have written three more– The Hours has now been expanded to comprise 7 poems in all.| contemplative prayer, dreams, imagery, poetry, Psalm, reflections, scripture, spirituality
– Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
Late at Night: Matins (1)
~God Sends Dreams
When I lie down, my mind is filled by You
and through the night watch, I meditate on You.
In a first dream, I stepped into the light as if
From out of nowhere. There before me
Was a small, waist-high, square wooden table.
Further up ahead a great, towering arch
Swept from one end to the other like a rainbow.
In the center of the table lay a large pile
Of ashes, white as ivory, that one could easily
Mistake for an arctic hare or ermine or
doll-sized Snowdrift. “What shadowy figure
left these here?” I wondered, without hope
Of answer. “But surely the ashes symbolize
Something,” I wisely surmised, “for it’s a dream
After all.” So, I began to reason. “Maybe
They're what’s left of my dry and achingly dull
Doctoral dissertation on the Elijan cycle
In 1 Kings. Or perhaps they're what remains
Of a thick, leather-bound, vellum-paged
Volume of Cabalistic poetry delivered
To the flames. One must, any way one can,
Protect such beauty from the wandering eyes
Of the merely curious, the Uninitiate. Or,
As a third option, maybe I'd finally succeeded
In returning to the earth from which it came
That teeshirt of sackcloth I admittedly long ago
Stopped wearing. And now, having become
Ash, it can better serve its true purpose. By
Scooping up ashes by the hand loads
And letting them rain down from above,
All over my head, I can offer stark proof to
The world of the genuineness of my contrition.”
After a little reflection, though, my dream-self
Soon realized I had in life ashes Aplenty,
perduring in the taste that certain memories
Left in my mouth whenever they welled up
and forced Themselves upon me. Perhaps
on a sleepless night, in that very moment
when the wind howls and rain Gallops by
like a horse-drawn carriage—“It's a gritty,
chalky, truly tasteless Taste that even
a pitcherful of water can't wash away.”
In my dream, then, I lifted the bowl of ashes
And held it high above my head in both hands.
But I didn’t overturn it. Rather, I strode forth,
with a practiced solemnity, through the arch and,
before he eyes of all, entered the arena.
Which arena? The Dreamland Arena, of course,
Which happily opened its arms to me in a
Truly splendid embrace, wide and consoling as a valley
Ringed by hills. Thousands of breathless Faces
Were staring down at me, hushed in an unearthly hush.
A second dream:
Rising upward from a ridge of sand, like so many headstones looking out over the beach to the water and waves of the Gulf, was a low picket fence of sea oats, each shoot meant to memorialize a key moment from my past, one I must never forget, despite the temptation to do so. About these moments, whenever I happened to recall this one or that, it was a sacred duty to offer up a quick prayer and let it soar heavenward on the snow white wings of a seagull. But I often failed my duty; too often my prayers were dragged back to earth, heavy as a wagon on its way to market, loaded down with stones ground smooth and shiny as ballbearings by years of regret.
The ridge of sand, I surmised, was all that remainder of the many prayers I’d failed to say. Or at least that's what was indicated by the voice of the dream’s emcee. Yes, I had through the years, along with my prayers, burned piles of incense, letting it burn down to gritty ash as the fragrant smoke rose. In this way I summoned up to consciousness my heart’s innermost whisper babbling continuously in a voice that mystics inform me ultimately has no mouth. Its words approach and linger inside my soul, becoming silent, unheard, until they burst forth and float on the wind, awash with the outside of things, wrestling the branches of an old oak.
In the dream I next found myself sitting near an open window keeping a nightlong vigil, prayers snoring noisily from my throat, when all of a sudden the milky white surface of a moonlit lake shook with the barely perceptible splashing of oars and overwhelmed the sleepiness that had been gathering all around me. Night became as clear as day, as the psalmist says, and I stood in reverence to its light.
My third dream was not a mindless escapade,
Easily dismissed; no, by simply plucking up
The three egret feathers—as the dream’s emcee
Informed me, his eyes glistening with a coal
Black fire—there was already in play a post-
Impressionist work of art. My dream had
Lifted me up into the upper atmosphere,
And I was soaring. From far below fields
Reached up for me with their thin fingers of
Tall grass tugging at my heart strings.
Beauty, indeed, lies everywhere, I realized;
Who can walk in this dream-laden world
Without tears streaming down his cheeks?
Life has, I said as I awoke, strung blue
And yellow ribbons from the air, announcing
A boy born today; willingly, through all
These years, they inhabited my shadow
Unbeknownst, while the mystery of it
Held fast. Now I’ve come to possess, with
The divine assistance, a deep inkling of Eden
Such as vegetarians, say, retain some faint
Racial memory of. There, huddled in a nest
Of rich black soil, dandelions, their faces lifted
Skyward, pleading for any scrap of rain, soon
Will poke free like fledglings ready to fly.
They have come to trumpet forth a blizzard
Of seed puffs that float and hover a moment
On white wings, then hurried away. Spring
Is toppling down all around me, my head,
My face, my eyes; each hour gathers its own
Sunlight easily. And my spirit reborn, this time
Without blindness, pursues a new aura over all.
Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD